The National Liberation Army (ELN), a revolutionary left-wing armed group in Colombia, declared a unilateral ceasefire for the month of April in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is “a humanitarian gesture from the ELN to the Colombian people, who are suffering from the devastation of the coronavirus,” said the ELN in an official statement, which was issued on March 28 and made public on March 30.
The ELN explained that “the cessation is active”, but their combatants would defend themselves if they were attacked by Colombia’s armed forces.
The guerilla group called on the government of President Iván Duque to re-establish peace talks with their delegation in Havana, Cuba, to finalize a “bilateral and temporary ceasefire.” It also called for an end to “the persecution against the population and the murder of social leaders and grassroots activists.”
In the statement, the ELN analyzed the humanitarian crisis generated by the pandemic and denounced the National government for the lack of response in terms of actions and resources to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. It called on the government to implement various social and economic relief programs to address the crisis.
The rebel organization demanded that the government release the “political prisoners” in the midst of the health emergency. It also demanded that the government provide the entire Colombian population with a free test to confirm the infection of the disease as well as with all the necessary materials required to stop the transmission of the virus.
It asked the government to supply a basic food supply and necessary medicines to all families every 15 day for free; grant subsidies to the unemployed people, small and medium industrialists, merchants and peasants; and suspend loan repayments, among other measures.
Last week, on March 23, the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres, called for “an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” and asked “to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” In this regard, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the UN representative in Colombia, on March 26, asked the country’s armed groups to implement a ceasefire during the health emergency caused by the COVID-19. The ELN accepted this call for a ceasefire, but the government has yet to comment.
As of March 30, Colombia has 798 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 and 13 deaths.